Ian Gourlay

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Sir Ian Gourlay
Born (1920-11-13)13 November 1920
Chorlton, Lancashire, England
Died 17 July 2013(2013-07-17) (aged 92)
London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Marines
Years of service 1940–75
Rank General
Commands held Commandant General Royal Marines (1971–75)
3 Commando Brigade (1966–68)
42 Commando (1963–65)
Battles/wars Second World War
Cyprus Emergency
Suez Crisis
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches

General Sir Basil Ian Spencer Gourlay, KCB, CVO, OBE, MC (13 November 1920 – 17 July 2013) was a Royal Marines officer who served as Commandant General Royal Marines from 1971 to 1975.

Early life

Gourlay was born on 13 November 1920 to Brigadier K. I. Gourlay and Victoria May Gourlay (née Oldrini). He was educated at Eastbourne College, an independent school in Eastbourne, East Sussex.[1]

Military career

Gourlay was commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1940.[2] His commission was confirmed on 20 January 1942 and he was given seniority in the rank of lieutenant from 14 June 1941.[3] He served on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable,[4] with which he saw active service in the Arctic, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean between 1941 and 1944.[1] Promoted to acting captain on 16 June 1944,[5] he served in 43 Commando in Yugoslavia and Italy from 1944 to 1945.[1] He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions fighting at Šolta in the Dalmatian Islands in 1944.[6]

Promoted to captain on 15 June 1949,[7] he was appointed Commanding Officer of 42 Commando in 1963, Colonel on the General Staff of the Commandant General Royal Marines in 1965 and Commander of 3 Commando Brigade in 1966. He went on to be Commander, Training Group Royal Marines in 1968[4] and Commandant General Royal Marines in 1971[1] before being promoted to general on 1 November 1973.[8] He was described by Lord Mountbatten, who had been Colonel Commandant of the Royal Marines, as "the best Commandant General the Royal Marines had ever had".[9]

He retired from the Royal Marines on 9 June 1975.[10]

Later life

In retirement, Gourlay became Director-General of the United World Colleges, serving from 1975 to 1990. He had been convinced to take up the position by Lord Mountbatten during the end of his time in the Royal Marines.[11]

He died on 17 July 2013.[12]

Personal life

In 1948, Gourlay married Natasha Zinovieff; they have one son and one daughter.[4]

Honours and decorations

In January 1957, it was gazetted that Gourlay had been mentioned in despatches "for distinguished services in operations against terrorist in Cyprus".[13]

In the 1957 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "in recognition of distinguished services in the Operations in the Near East, October To December, 1956".[14] In the 1973 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).[15] In the 1990 New Year Honours, he was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO).[16]


  1. ^ a b c d "GOURLAY, Gen. Sir (Basil) Ian (Spencer)". Who's Who 2013. A & C Black. November 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "GOURLAY, Sir (Basil) Ian Spencer (born 1920), General". Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900–1975. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "No. 35479". The London Gazette. 6 March 1942. p. 1064. 
  4. ^ a b c Debrett's People of Today 1994
  5. ^ "No. 38635". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 June 1949. p. 2852. 
  6. ^ Special Forces Roll of Honour Archived 1 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "No. 38652". The London Gazette. 28 June 1949. p. 3182. 
  8. ^ "No. 46138". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 November 1973. p. 14082. 
  9. ^ Peterson, Alexander Duncan Campbell (2003). Schools across frontiers : the story of the international Baccalaureate and the United World Colleges (2 ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Publishing. p. 124. ISBN 9780812695052. 
  10. ^ "No. 46582". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 May 1975. p. 6830. 
  11. ^ "Sir Ian Gourlay". United World Colleges. Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Telegraph Announcements
  13. ^ "No. 40987". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 January 1957. pp. 653–654. 
  14. ^ "No. 41092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1957. pp. 3415–3416. 
  15. ^ "No. 45984". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 May 1973. p. 6474. 
  16. ^ "No. 51981". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1989. pp. 3–4. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Peter Hellings
Commandant General Royal Marines
Succeeded by
Sir Peter Whiteley
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